I preached a sermon with the title ”Whenever You’re Uncertain, Remember That God Knows Everything”. I said that every time something bad happens, a disaster, a death, an illness, or a financial catastrophe, many people either ask “Why would God allow this to happen” or why did God do this”? Why are we struck with a debilitating illness in the prime of life, why does one of our children die young, or why do we lose a job right after we sign a big mortgage? What about facing foreclosure because we haven’t been able to find a job? Why is your spouse stricken with a chronic illness ending in death? When these things happen in succession we search for answers.
Christians and non-believers alike might wonder, “What do you think they did to deserve cancer?” If someone’s wife walks out, insensitive churchgoers might think, “If he had been a better spiritual leader, his wife wouldn’t have done that.” If a teenager is rebellious, hardened onlookers might privately reflect, “If that kid’s parents had been more involved, this never would have happened.” When we are going through a tough time, or have a tragic loss our well-meaning Christian friends say “This was God’s will,” and that, “we don’t always understand why God does what God does, but we must accept God’s will.” What a terrible thing to say at that time! I don’t believe that it is God’s will that we face disaster. I haven’t been able to find anywhere in the Bible that God wants His children to suffer. As a matter of fact;
1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NLT) For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.
When things happen that don’t appear to make sense, or go against what we think is good, we Christians say God did it or allowed it. I’ve heard that very thing more times than you think. We say that God does or allows bad stuff because we don’t understand how a God that we believe loves us, can allow us go through situations that stretch our abilities as human beings to handle or understand.
Being a Christian doesn't exempt you from suffering. Jesus Himself assured us that there will be trouble in our lives.
John 16:33 (NKJV)33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
The Bible also tells us that no matter the situation we are never alone.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
That means He’s with you in the good times and the bad times.
Hebrews 13:5 NIV Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Psalm 34:19 NIV The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
That sounds good, however when troubles lingers and even more trouble comes we may start to wonder if anybody hears or really cares. Knowing and believing God’s promises still don’t stop us from asking why?
The Prophet Who Asked Why
In my series “Prophets of the Bible “ I wrote a post about Habakkuk. He wanted to know why God allowed all the violence, evil, and idolatry to continue in Israel.
Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NLT)2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.3 Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.4 The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.
God answered, telling Habakkuk that He would deal with it in a way that surprised him. He was going the use the Babylonians, who were evil themselves, to discipline Israel, even taking them into captivity.
Habakkuk 1:5-11 (NLT)5 The LORD replied, “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.6 I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people. They will march across the world and conquer other lands.7 They are notorious for their cruelty and do whatever they like.8 Their horses are swifter than cheetahs and fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their charioteers charge from far away. Like eagles, they swoop down to devour their prey.9 “On they come, all bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind, sweeping captives ahead of them like sand.10 They scoff at kings and princes and scorn all their fortresses. They simply pile ramps of earth against their walls and capture them!11 They sweep past like the wind and are gone. But they are deeply guilty, for their own strength is their god.”
Habakkuk then follows up by saying, “Ok, you are God, but still tell me more about why this is happening”
Habakkuk 1:17-2:1 (NLT)17 Will you let them get away with this forever? Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests? 1 I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint.
God answers him again with more information ending by belling the earth to be silent before Him.
Habakkuk 2:2, 20 (NLT)2 Then the LORD said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.20 But the LORD is in his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him.”
We Wonder Too
As I said in my sermon that no matter what’s going on around us we can always be certain of the fact that God loves us. Because we can count on that fact we know that we can come to Him with all of our questions and cries for help.
These crys are laments and there are many examples of prayers of lament in the Psalms. In most cases we never know how or even if those those cries for help are answered. What we do see in most cases is the one praying while undergoing trials also exhibits trust in God that they would be delivered. In Habakkuk’s case he does get an answer. Not the answer that he expected but he did get an answer.
Unlike the laments in the Psalms, this one shows us God's response. In his lament, Habakkuk cries out to God. He asks for God's help, intervention, and justice. Like most other laments, Habakkuk responds with trust in God.
The book begins with the prophet looking at the sin and idolatry around him and asking, "O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise" (1:2-3).
God responded to Habakkuk's question but not in the way he expected. God told Habakkuk that he would deal with the sin and idolatry. He would deal with it by sending Babylon to exact his justice. God would judge not only Judah, but their enemies as well. "Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through
the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own" (1:5-7).
This was hard for Habakkuk to hear. Babylon was an evil nation. Yet Habakkuk responded and affirmed God's sovereignty, holiness, and power, "Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof." (1:12).
But he still wanted to know, why?
Habakkuk 1:13 NLT But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil. Will you wink at their treachery? Should you be silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they? (Scripture insert mine)
It may seem that evil is winning the day, but one day, God's glory will cover the earth, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" 2:14). For those of us who watch the evil around us in the world or in our own lives and wonder when God will move, this is a good reminder. As our Savior said, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Habakkuk placed his trust and hope in the God who was faithful to his people in the past and trusted in his promises for the future. Jesus came as the answer to those promises. He is the answer to the suffering, injustice, and evil in the world. He is the One to whom all the stories of redemption and deliverance in the Old Testament point to. On this side of the cross, we can trust in God's perfect plan. We too can "quietly wait." We can rejoice even in the midst of our anxieties.
Habakkuk 3:16-19 NLTI trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us. Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord ! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (Scripture insert mine.)
Christ has come and is with us in the darkest days. And he will come again and make all things new.
Revelation 21:5-7 NLT And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. (Scripture insert mine)
Editor’s Note: Some of the content of this post are excerpts from Habakkuk's Lament (and Ours) by Christina Fox.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.